Ko‘a Kea Resort Kauai

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You might assume that the first luxury small property to open on Kauai in 30 years would have made a splashy debut, but the beachfront Ko‘a Kea (built on the site of the old Poipu Beach Hotel) slipped onto the scene with barely a ripple.

Maybe it’s the size: With just 121 rooms—all with balconies or lanais and within earshot of the waves—the resort is considerably smaller than its brand-name neighbors on the sunny south coast. Eschewing waterslides and swim-up bars, Ko‘a Kea has more sedate pleasures: an unadorned swimming pool tiled in deep blue, a sophisticated restaurant/lounge with a sashimi tasting menu, and an expansive lawn overlooking a cove where guests (mostly honeymooners) canoodle at sunset. Rooms might be dismissed as humdrum nouveau-Hawaiian (there’s lots of coral) if they weren’t so comfortable and thoughtful—each has a cushy chaise longue, a ceiling fan and AC, and an in-room espresso machine that provides a pre–surf lesson pick-me-up (one of the island’s best breaks fronts the hotel).

When it comes to service, Ko‘a Kea demonstrates that smaller may indeed be better: When a recent rainy day kept guests indoors, a desk clerk sent the latest issue of Vanity Fair magazine up to their rooms.